Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I fight cancer

What the heck does it mean to "fight cancer"?

Before I was diagnosed I had only a few experiences with cancer. My mom's parents both fought and passed away from cancer while living with my family in my late teens. Growing up I had heard stories of how my mom's brother also fought Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was my same age and in college (he survived and is still kickin'!). But I didn't really know what cancer was or what it meant to "fight" it.

Until now! There are so many different types of cancers and chemotherapies and treatments, so I can only speak for myself. But if you're interested, here's how I fight:

I fight by going in for chemotherapy.
Going to chemo isn't my favorite. It tastes gross, it makes me feel crummy, and I have to get poked with a needle. But I know that it is helping me heal and get better, so I choose to go (and try to have a good attitude about it).

I fight nausea.
This is the biggest side effect of chemotherapy. Feeling nauseated is the worst. I take that back. Actually throwing up is the worst. I have pills that help enormously, as well as smelling citrus or distracting myself with Netflix.  

I fight constipation and diarrhea.
Another foe that is not pretty, but real. It has taken four months, but we have finally re-figured out my bowels and how to keep them functioning well. But with that said, it took us four crappy months.

I fight all sorts of weird side effects.
My teeth are super sensitive now for several days (it feels like I'm teething). I've had a fever for a week (and I'm taking antibiotics to help, don't worry too much). I get a metallic taste in my mouth pretty often. My skin is acting weird and dries out in strange ways. Night sweats baby. My hormones are loco-crazy. Ya.

I fight my body.
My body is a battlefield right now. Chemo drugs as well as some of my cells are kicking those cancer cells trash. Every. Single. Day. Plus I've still got ulcers in my colon and my body is freaks out about that sometimes. I'm underweight, so I have no fat storage so my body is constantly in starvation-freak-out mode. Sleeping isn't always easy, and I really, really need sleep. In short, things are pretty dang whacked out right now. Which is why...

I fight to love my body.
My body is so far from functioning normally right now. And that is frustrating. Walking 300 feet to the mailbox is a huge feat. Trying to read a book or learn new things is sometimes challenging. Staying awake past 10 pm is almost impossible. Using the bathroom takes an enormous amount of energy. Being bony and thin is very uncomfortable. Things I used to love to do, like cooking and running are impossible for me to do right now. But even though there is so much my body can't do, I choose to love my body. I'm healing. I'm fighting. And I still can do lots of things! My body isn't very strong right now, but I have a body, and I love my body, and I know that someday I will have a functional, strong body. 

I fight boredom.
Now, I do sleep quite a lot (I would say that's the main activity I engage in) but I still have plenty of time on hand during my waking hours. I choose to read books and blogs and scriptures and magazines, paint, listen to audio-books, watch episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child, watch Netflix (favorites include Parks and Recreation, The Mind of a Chef, Cutthroat Kitchen, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Audrey Hepburn films), check email and Facebook, reply to messages, write on this blog, visit with friends who stop by or via Skype, look at Instagram, take baths, take naps, meditate, walk to check the mailbox (that's my one chore), water our plants (mostly neglect), paint my nails occasionally, and make sure I'm eating and drinking. And steal kisses and receive foot massages from my lovely husband when he's around. I'm not bored often, but it happens.

I fight to stay positive.
This is the ever present battle. Every day I have a choice as to how I want to look at this experience. And most days I choose to see it as a positive opportunity. There is so much that I'm learning from this experience, and there are so so SO many blessings that have come into our lives. I still have moments that are really hard, where I want my old body, and a "normal" life. I get frustrated with my inability to do a lot of things. I even miss things like work and school. But I guess my motto that gets me through has kind of turned into: this is not for forever, and look at how much good there is! 

And that's how I fight cancer.